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Calls for free parking

THE District Council’s Future Tairawhiti committee approved a draft parking policy for consultation this month as some councillors again called for free parking.

Larry Foster was annoyed that the draft policy made no mention of free parking. The council had already done a lot of consultation on this.

Hastings had an hour’s free parking for over a year and it was a huge success, he said.

“Why can’t we consult with them to have some idea of their success, and other areas’ success with that?

“There is nothing in here that is different to what we had three years ago,” Mr Foster said.

“It is all about what do we want. Even from Heart of Gisborne, we have recommended free parking. All the other forums we have had have mentioned free parking and we even trialled it last year.

“I would have liked to have seen a recommendation for that as part of these recommendations.”

He agreed with more restrictions on parking in Read’s Quay but to put all their laurels on a new phone app that might happen “whenever, I don’t know when”, the council was going to be having this conversation for the next three or four years.

Putting in a new system would add to their costs. That was going to add to whatever projects the council had right now.

“A cheaper way that could be done right now is one-hour free parking. Let’s do it.”

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the key thing to remember was that the policy took a long-term view and had potential for a 9 percent growth in the future.

“It also provides for varying levels of how we apply and charge for parking, depending on an 85 percent occupancy rate.”

Senior policy adviser Carrie White said there was money in the 2019 budget for upgrading the parking meters.

A matter for enforcementThe council did not have the ability to do one-hour free parking with the present meters. It would be an enforcement matter. At the moment there was one full-time and three part-time enforcement officers.

Pat Seymour agreed with Mr Foster, saying the council had been talking about this for years. Neighbouring towns had one-hour free parking and seemed to be a hive of activity.

The 85 percent occupancy figure, with no disrespect to whoever dreamed it up, was a nonsense because half the main street was empty every afternoon, yet the council still wanted to charge people.

Not everybody supported electronic buttons being inserted into the tarseal, which would come with a huge cost. There was still an opportunity to throw them out and use that money for something more meaningful.

“We need to think about what we hear from the community, our ratepayers, and half of Gisborne. They say they would like an hour’s free parking to get people to come into the city and be more vibrant.

“Isn’t that what we bang on about as well?”

Rehette Stoltz said if the main street were empty, the prices would go down with the proposed parking scheme using the app. That made sense to her.

Carrie White said the council would be the first to have this policy. It would be strictly monitored, so the charge would slide regularly.

Lifelines director David Wilson said when they talked to stakeholders they said the most important thing was not about it being free, it was about it being convenient.

Retailers say yesA lot of retailers said yes to free parking, but who was going to pay for it? They recognised there was going to be a cost for parking in the main street.

“We have incorporated the feedback. We have been listening and it is reflected in the document.”

Brian Wilson said he had an opposite view about the streets being empty.

“I can’t believe how busy it's been in the main street and the CBD. I've been really surprised and encouraged that our economy seems to be working quite well.”

The policy was a really great idea, it was a way to be agile. If things were quiet in the area, the prices would drop. If it was busy, they would go up.

“You try to manage the way that parks are taken up. I think it's a fantastic idea.

“You can’t just impose one hour free and not take into account the consequences of doing that,” Mr Wilson said.

“Our parking budget is a certain amount, it's part of our rates make-up. If you take out a significant amount of income from one area, you are going to suffer.”

Graeme Thomson said if the council dropped parking charges it would not drop its overheads. These would still have to be paid.

“I would like to remind people who think Santa Claus is real that one of the biggest beneficiaries of our parking system in the past 10 years recently has been the Makorori Beach carpark.”

Andy Cranston said right at the start of the consultation, the question of what the impact on rates would be should be answered.

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